9 Signs That Neuroscience Has Entered The Classroom

There is often a big divide between what happens in the laboratory and the way laboratory findings are practically applied. The relationship between neuroscience research and education is no exception. While there are numerous educational products that claim to be based on neuroscience research (often quite dubiously so), the real impact of brain-based research on education has been much more subtle. While neuroscience hasn't yet radically changed the way we think about teaching and learning, it is helping to shape educational policies and influencing new ways of implementing technology, improving special education, and streamlining day-to-day interactions between teachers and students. While there is still a long way to go before we truly understand the science of learning and how to use those findings in the real world classroom, it's important to highlight some of the key ways that neuroscience is changing the classroom of today for the better.
  1. Cognitive tutoring:
    Cognitive tutoring is still in its infancy, but it is looking to be one of the most promising products of the intersection of neuroscience and education. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon are using their expertise in neuroscience and programming along with help and input from teachers to build software that's both innovative and practical for everyday use. The first tutor created by the team focuses on algebra and has so far had promising results in helping students raise their math test scores. So how is it different from other tutoring programs? The cognitive tutoring programs allow students to learn by doing and are based on cognitive psychology theory, employing an AI system to adjust to student needs as well as to track student progress and thought processes so teachers can better help them learn. Read more about the tutoring system here, and learn how schools can tailor it to their individual needs as well.
  2. High schools starting later:
    Neuroscience research has demonstrated that sleep patterns change, often significantly, as individuals age. Multiple studies have found that adolescents need more sleep than other age groups and are unlikely to function at peak cognitive capacity early in the morning. In addition to needing more sleep, teens also simply have different circadian rhythms, which often makes them drowsy and moody in the morning. Many schools are starting to use this data to make changes, pushing back start times to allow students to sleep in a little later. Surprisingly, as little as 30 minutes of difference can have a major impact on mood and attentiveness, and schools that have chosen to take this neuroscience research into account when making policies are reaping the benefits, reporting fewer students showing up late, skipping breakfast, and feeling sleepy throughout the day.
  3. Offering more variety:
    Repetition can be a valuable learning tool, no matter what you're trying to learn, but neuroscience research has pinpointed a "spacing effect," demonstrating that students learn more when episodes of learning are spaced out over time rather than pushed into one single episode. One of the ways this manifests itself is by bringing greater variety into the classroom, with lessons extending over the course of a semester rather than being fit into a few days or weeks. Researchers have also found that variety is key in learning because, simply put, the brain craves it, boosting levels of both attention and retention in students. So how is this being put into practice? Teachers are presenting information in unique ways or asking students to solve a problem using multiple methods, not just memorizing a single way to do so. This same research has also debunked the idea that there are individual learning styles, suggesting that presenting information in a variety of ways is helpful to all students, not just those who enjoy more visual or auditory content.
  4. Individualized education:
    While our general brain anatomy is similar, neuroscience is showing that no two brains work exactly alike. Personal experiences actually determine where information is stored in the brain, developing unique neuron structures for each person. Because we're all wired a little bit differently, learning tools that are adaptable to individual needs are especially valuable in the classroom. New, highly plastic digital tools are filling part of that role, but neuroscience and education are taking this information in another direction as well. Teachers are being encouraged to expose students to novel experiences when presenting information to build entirely new neural connections or to connect new information to previous experiences students have had to take advantage of existing brain pathways.
  5. Understanding that you use it or lose it:
    When it comes to knowledge, you either use it or you lose it. Anyone who has ever tried to remember lessons from grade school decades later can attest to this, but neuroscience backs it up, demonstrating that people who read more challenging books often have a greater variety and number of neural connections. This research also has practical applications for modern education aside from simply encouraging students to read. Research has shown that the more time students spend outside of school, the more they'll forget, leading to more work to regain lost information. As a result, many schools are shortening summer breaks or going to a year-round schedule in order to reduce the amount of time students are away from their studies.
  6. Better identification and intervention for learning disorders:
    Neuroscience research is making it easier to identify which students have learning disabilities and to get those students interventions that can significantly help their academic performance. Through neuroscience research, new biomarkers and diagnostic strategies for disabilities like ADHD and dyslexia have been identified, in turn leading to more successful early interventions for students and some potentially amazing tools to help students learn. One example is a neuroscience-based reading program for dyslexic students called Fast ForWord, which helps students compensate for the difficulties they have with auditory processing. The scientists behind the software are experimenting to see if it can also help other students without dyslexia build their cognitive "muscles" and take advantage of brain plasticity in the same way that it does for dyslexic students.
  7. Making learning fun:
    Increasingly, neuroscience is demonstrating the importance of making learning a fun and positive experience. Pleasurable experiences cause the body to release dopamine, which in turn helps the brain remember facts. One great example of how this is making it into the classroom is Khan Academy, an online learning portal that challenges students to complete games and problem sets in order to win badges. Many students report feeling an affinity for subjects like math and science that they didn't have before the game-based learning program was implemented in their schools. Even when students didn't have a marked increase in test scores after using Khan, they reported a more positive attitude about learning, which can often be a major hurdle for educators. Recent research has also shown just how much of an emotional experience learning can be, with negative emotional states like fear, anxiety, shame, or worry making it difficult or impossible for students to reason, learn, or store new memories. This data further stresses the need for developing learning environments that are not just fun but are also positive, safe places for students.
  8. Making learning social:
    Human beings are highly social creatures, so it should come as no surprise that neuroscience would point to a positive effect from social learning experiences. A study by teacher and neurologist Judy Willis in 2011 found that students who worked on writing in positive, supportive groups experienced a surge in dopamine (which we've already discussed the positive effects of), as well as a redirection and facilitation of information through the amygdala into the higher cognitive brain, allowing students to better remember information over the long term. She also found that learning in groups tended to reduce anxiety, which can frequently be a major roadblock to effective learning. Some schools have used this study and others like it as the basis for allowing students to do more group work or even to help struggling peers grasp a new concept.
  9. Focus on neuroeducation:
    We've already discussed neuroscience research that has shown us how diverse our brains can be, but research also demonstrates that they are incredibly dynamic. Through practice, it's actually possible to change the way our brains are structured, adding more brain connections and changing neural pathways through the neuroplasticity afforded by our brain cells. Education is just beginning to acknowledge that successful learning isn't just a process of taking in facts; it's also about strengthening and developing the brain itself. These developments can not only help to improve learning in those with disabilities but can also improve memory and language skills in all students, regardless of ability. Educators are increasingly encouraging administrators to move away from memorization-based learning to programs that ask students to solve problems, think critically, and explore creativity, as these methods not only build knowledge but also enhance and build brain pathways themselves, prepping the brain for future educational experiences.

As I move forward, I grow wiser

As I move forward, I grow wiser from http://merlinmindpower.com
I move forward because standing still is the only guaranteed way to fail. Moving forward, whether I walk through victories or defeats, is the only way I will learn and grow.
Every step I take brings me one step closer to my goals. While on the journey to my dreams, I gather wisdom from my experiences, which helps me make better decisions in the future. In doing so, I am setting myself up for a life with no regrets.
I am eager to learn new lessons around me every day. I am mature enough to learn from the situations of others even before I face those situations myself. When I experience a shortcoming, I remind myself that mistakes are simply lessons in disguise.
When I experience a personal victory, I take note of successful strategies that I can use in the future. If I ever encounter failure, I reflect on my actions in order to perform better the next time.
I open myself up to new challenges with confidence allowing life to be my classroom. Each day I embrace life with the expectation that I will receive knowledge from the most unexpected places.
I dare to venture into every day, even when I am surrounded by uncertainty, because being a risk taker pays off with new knowledge that I never would have acquired otherwise.
Today, I choose to walk forth into my destiny with wisdom and direction. I embrace the opportunity to learn from the many sources of knowledge that engulf me. My knowledge increases as I fearlessly accept the lessons I am being taught by life itself.
Self-Reflection Questions:
1. What lessons has life taught me recently?
2. What unexpected knowledge can I find today?
3. How can I share my wisdom with others?

10 Steps to Infuse Your Goals (Brain) With Momentum-Inspiring Passion

By Athena Staik, Ph.D.

One of the keys to success in any area of your life is staying focused on what's important in a given situation or period of time. What you most desire – your goals – are inseparably connected to your highest values, certain core emotional yearnings you are hardwired, as a human being, to aspire to realize.
The key to realizing what you want therefore lies not only in your ability to stay focused on your goals, but also the skill of cultivating and holding fast to an impassioned understanding of the connection between your goals and your deepest values. It's about getting your brain to work for you, optimally, with you.
Connecting what you want to higher values?
You can realize amazing things in your life and relationships when you understand the power of your focused attention. No longer theory, there are complex processes that are automatically handled by the 'operating system' of your brain and body, also known as the subconscious or unconscious mind. What you pay attention to expands.
Simultaneously, certain core universal yearnings or values operate automatically, in that, these hardwired emotional drive/needs, consciously or subconsciously, motivate human behaviors akin to human physical drives for sustenance.
More precisely, what we're talking about here is how to make this a conscious process, something that you, and not your subconscious mind, are in charge of.
As long as you remain a passive bystander, your subconscious mind will be solely in control of forming or changing your habits, guessing what goals and wants best fulfill your deepest yearnings. Of course it gets it wrong perhaps most of the time. That's because many of the perceptions that it relies on (i.e., about what you need to do to matter in life) were imprinted subconsciously when you were a small child!
Additionally, your subconscious mind automatic releases feel-good and feel-bad hormones, and cannot discern between feel-good options that are healthy (i.e., nutritious food) or toxic (i.e., junk food, drugs), and feel-bad options that are toxic (i.e., poison) or healthy (i.e., facing a fear of conflict). It's up to conscious you, and your wise-self to discipline and 'teach' or 'train' your mind and body to adopt healthy choices.
Ten steps to infuse your goals with momentum.
Speaking of goals, studies shows people who have written goals, or better yet S.M.A.R.T. goals, are more likely to realize them. It makes sense, considering that, when you take time to write something down, you automatically engage your brain in deeper processes of focused attention.
Unless you've achieved mastery in focusing your attention, it's preferable to select one or maximum two goals, from your personal list of goals, to work on to complete the ten step exercise below. If you have not yet put together your own personal list, here are two lists of goals (personal and relational) to give you some ideas, from which to choose one or two goals most important to you.
Possibilities for personal goals:
  • Improve my self-esteem and confidence.
  • Develop healthy body-image and relationship with my body.
  • Adopt a lifestyle of eating nutritious foods (and break addiction to junk foods).
  • Let go of extra weight to look and feel better.
  • Realize and maintain a trim, fit, healthy body.
  • Embrace a lifestyle of regular exercise.
  • Improve my performance, success and productivity at work (career, school, etc.).
  • Break an addiction to drinking, smoking or taking substances.
  • Stop or dramatically reduce time on computer or watching TV.
  • Break free of fear of failure to go after my dream, career, relationship, etc.
  • Serve and meaningfully contribute to a community or group.
Possibilities for relationship goals:
  • Energize emotional closeness, fun, passion in my couple relationship.
  • Cultivate deeper, more engaging friendships.
  • Heal a relationship with a parent, sibling or child.
  • Attract a special partner, who is loving, healthy and caring.
  • Heal my couple relationship from harmful conflict, infidelity or other trauma.
So, take out a sheet of paper and a pen and write down a goal you now select, and would like to devote yourself to infusing with action-activating passion. Begin by writing the goal down, and then complete the exercise below.
1. What do you most want?
First, clearly articulate what you goal you want to focus your mind and body's attention on.
EXAMPLES of goals:
  • I want to improve my self-esteem and confidence.
  • I want to heal my relationship with one of my children.
2. Revise core assumptions to declare belief in yourself, and own your capacity to change.
Second, whenever you set a goal, what you're doing is declaring your intention to make a change, whether big or small. In order to energize the power to change, you need to first check your core assumptions about yourself, your capacity for change, and so on. Revise them accordingly to declare belief in both yourself and where the source of your power to change resides – inside. When you consciously choose to believe in yourself, and your inner capabilities to empower positive change, you step into an image or vision of yourself as a responsible and caring architect and creator of your life experiences.
The reason this is so powerful is that it energizes your subconscious mind to better serve you, to learn and to be open to incorporate an empowering mindset, and an optimal set of perceptions that would best allow you to live your best life and relationships.
Three Essential Assumptions to consider adopting:
  1. I take complete and full responsibility for realizing any of my goals or making changes in any area of my life.
  2. I believe in myself, and am grateful for my innate capacity to do and change anything I put my mind and heart to realizing.
  3. I always have a choice to choose what is good and in the highest interest of my mind, body and spirit (emotional well-being).
3. Why do you want what you want?
Third, consider why you want to realize this goal.
EXAMPLE of why you may want what you want:
  • I want to realize this goal because I want to feel confident, to accept and to feel better about myself as a person when I'm around others.
4. Explore 'why' more deeply to fully understand and exhaust all reasons.
In the fourth step, look for what reasons underlie your reasons to create an exhaustive list of reasons. To the extent you understand why you want something, you accordingly energize your inner passion for this goal.
To more deeply explore, keep asking yourself, "What else can you say about this?" or "Is there more to this?" after each of your "why" responses you write down.
EXAMPLE of responses to "What else can you say about this?"
  • Well, I don't want people to take advantage of me like they did my mother. I want to be able to say 'no' instead of stewing inside, then resenting others or myself.
EXAMPLE of a response to "Is there more to this?"
  • I don't want to end up like my mother who didn't have the confidence to stop my father from beating us. Until recently, I blamed her for the beatings my siblings and I endured. Now, the more I mature and have gotten to know her, I realize that she wasn't an accomplice, that she just felt powerless in the face of my father's anger.
EXAMPLE of another response to "Is there more to this?"
  • Yes. It breaks my heart that I am setting a bad example for my daughter, by not having the confidence to value myself, speak my views with confidence.
5. Explore deeper values (emotional drives or "needs") you yearn to fulfill by meeting this goal?
In step five, you connect with the deeper values or emotional drives related to your goal, of which the overarching one is 'to matter' in life. Keep in mind these universal yearnings, such as the yearning for happiness, safety, health and wellbeing, understanding, integrity, fun, emotional connection, and so on, have life-shaping power as they activate the firing and wiring of neurons that in turn determine if you take action or not, and whether the action you take leads you closer (toward) or farther (away) from your goal.
EXAMPLE of what deeper values or emotional drives that you may be seeking to fulfill by meeting this goal:
  • The emotionally drives seeking to be fulfilled by my attaining more confidence and self-esteem are happiness, acceptance, emotional connection, and authenticity.
6. What do you most fear in relation achieving this goal?
Sixth, you identify what you fear most in relation to successfully realizing this goal, for example, ask yourself: "What would be the worst thing about completely achieving this goal?"
EXAMPLE of a fear in relation to achieving this goal:
  • I guess what I would fear most if I had self-esteem and confidence is that others, especially my family and friends would not like me, or even reject me, and think I am selfish, self-centered or arrogant.
7. What do you fear most in relation to failing to achieve this goal?
In step seven, you ask a similar question, but this time you seek to identify what you fear most in relation to not fulfilling this goal. Here, ask yourself the following, "What would be the worst thing about failing to achieve this goal."
EXAMPLE of a fear in relation to failing to achieve this goal:
  • It would be a terrible life, in that I'd feel trapped and voiceless, as if I do not even exist or matter to others, or to myself, since I don't even have the courage to stand up to speak my views in my personal relationships, and at work.
8. What do you declare instead for yourself?
For this step, you now declare for yourself what you aspire and yearn for instead, in other words, in place of what you do not want to happen. This articulates a new vision for your life.
EXAMPLES of what I declare for myself instead:
  • To feel healthy self-esteem and to live a life of confidence despite any fear or doubt I have.
  • To feel confident and believe in myself enough, to be a healthy and positive example for my daughter, by having the courage to be myself, to stand up to express how I feel.
  • To feel worthwhile, deserving to make requests, saying what I want.
  • To feel confident that because this is a most loving thing to do for myself, that those who love me in a healthy way would want this for me as well, just as I want this for my daughter.
9. What action big or small will I commit to start taking today?
Next, identify a specific action you can start taking right away in the direction of your goal. This step is critical because action is what seals the deal so to speak. In other words, though all steps listed here are important, in essence, the true benefit of the first seven steps is to ensure that your focus and attention, and thus any action you take move you in the direction of realizing your goal. It does not have to be huge, just small action
EXAMPLES of an action step am I committed to start taking today:
  • Memorize the Three Core Assumptions and, for a month, repeat them three times first thing in the morning and last thing before sleep at night.
  • In a journal or notebook, make two lists, on the left hand side of the page, list ways you help, serve or attempt to make life easier for others at home or work; and on the right hand side of the page, list ways you help or attempt to improve the quality of your life, health and relationships.
10. What affirmations will best serve to infuse your actions with passion and momentum?
In this final step, you formulate one or more succinct, empowering, inspiring affirmations that are specific to infusing your particular goal with passion to act and maintain your momentum. This turns your goal into an statement that powerfully energizes the optimal emotional-physiological states in your mind and body that you need to support you to realizing your goal.
EXAMPLES of succinct, affirmations that can infuse your mind and body with the high-frequency emotional energy you need to take action in the direction of realizing your goals.
  • Even though I am unhappy about and want to change certain aspects of my life, I fully and completely love, value and accept myself just as I am.
  • I now fully enjoy being a confident and energetic person.
  • I am free to now easily see myself as an asset to my family, company or community.
  • In my home and work, I am loved, valued and accepted just as I am.
No matter what your personal goal is, you can use these steps to successfully influence your subconscious to make the positive changes you desire to achieve. It takes courage and wisdom to take the reins as captain of the ship of your life.
You achieve this by working consciously with your subconscious mind, the part of the mind that controls the autonomic processes of your body. It's essential to form a working relationship with this powerful part of your mind because it is in charge of forming or breaking habits, strategies — and even addictions.
It's all about consciously disallowing your body's sensory system, or survival response, to take over your life with default choices by making conscious choices instead.
The key to realizing what you want rests in your ability to remain consciously focused on what you really, really want, and simultaneously hold an impassioned understanding of the connection between realizing your goals, big or small, and fulfilling core emotional drives, to energize the momentum and action you need in the direction of realizing what you aspire.
Why not soar like an eagle? You always have a choice to put your life in high gear with conscious-love in action.

Relationship consultant, author, licensed marriage and family therapist, Dr. Athena Staik shows clients how to break free of anxiety, addictions, and other emotional blocks, to awaken radiantly healthy lives and relationships. Dr. Staik is currently in private practice in Northern VA, and writing her book, Safe Enough to Love™: Breaking Free of Addictive Love in Couple Relationships. To contact Dr. Staik for information, an appointment or workshop, visit www.drstaik.com, or visit on her Facebook fan page DrAthenaStaik

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Ten Success Traits

Successful people all share common
traits...these traits are what make
them successful in the first place.

Ten of the most common traits
shared by successful people are:

1. They work hard. Successful
people are willing to work as hard
as necessary to succeed.

There is no such thing as easy
money and they know that. They
willingly put in however many
hours it takes to succeed.

2. They have integrity. They are
honest in all their dealings
because they know that dishonest
people might get the first sale
but they will get the rest.
Honesty does pay.

3. They keep on keeping on.
Successful people outlast the
competition. Because someone quit,
there are a lot of success stories
that will never be written.

4. They are friendly. Because
people like them,successful people
are able to lead others and get a
task accomplished efficiently and

5. They keep learning all their
lives.Successful people never
believe they know everything. They
stretch and grow and learn from
their mistakes....they ask a lot of
questions. They are readers, as
well as, thinkers.

6. They give more than is
required. The old statement of
under-promise and over-deliver
became famous because it made a
lot of people successful,
including the richest man in the
world - Bill Gates

7. They see problems as
opportunities. Successful people
find solutions to problems that
look impossible. They dont
complain...they go to work. They see
a problem as a spring board to

8. They think positive. Successful
people always see the glass as
"half full" and operate on that

9. They manage their time
efficiently. Successful people
dont get side tracked easily.  They
dont waste their time on
unproductive things or people.
Check out the Time Management

10. They are great communicators.
Successful people can convey their
thoughts and plans to others
without confusion of disconnected

Put these somewhere you see them

Remember, the idea is to aim for
them, not to beat yourself up
if you don't have them all :)

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The Magic Power of Switchwords

By Shunyam Nirav, Author of Switchwords
Wouldn't it be great to have a magic wand that you could just wave at any situation or creative project, and have it turn out beneficially just as you wish?

Actually, we all have such a wand! However, most of us have not been aware of it, and have never received an instruction manual for its use. (So I wrote one!)

Your Word is Your Magic Wand

Your word is your wand — and if you're reading this e-zine, you likely have become aware that thought is creative. Intentional creative thoughts bring about intentional desired results.
Intentional creative thoughts can take the form of images or words, or both. We can envision an image and be grateful like it's really already so (for example, a trip to Hawaii or making a million dollars). Or we can declare or affirm a beneficial condition or state of affairs, in words (for example, "My connection to infinite being and infinite intelligence is always sufficient to yield me a huge financial fortune") and be grateful also for that being so. Or we can do both image and text together.

The affirmations or declarations that most people use are complete sentences, but a pioneer named James Mangan in the past century identified about a hundred certain single words that are extraordinarily effective when used as a intentional creative thought, to bring about a specific desired result.
Using a single word to create with, instead of a long sentence (as in conventional affirmations or creative declarations), brings a greatly increased laser-like focus of your creative energy in this single moment of now.

Introducing "Switchwords"

James Mangan called these special words "switchwords." A "switchword" is the essence of an experience, condition, or desired result, expressed as a single word. Declare, affirm, chant, sing, or even just mentally "intend" the switchword, and like turning on an electric lamp with a switch, the desired result reliably appears.

For example: one of the most practically useful ones is: REACH. — to find anything you're looking for, such as:

*misplaced items in the physical world (keys, papers, tools, etc.);
*forgotten ideas or information in your mind or memory (names, numbers, etc);
*solutions to problems.

Whenever you misplace something, or are searching for something, or want to solve a problem, just persistently declare or chant, silently or aloud, "REACH." Then let yourself go wherever you feel to, and watch yourself go directly to what you are looking for! Some aspect of your being knows where it is, and "REACH" reliably makes the connection! Try it ... it really works! Very useful in everyday life!

*whenever you want to sell something, say: GIVE.
*whenever you want to make money: COUNT.
*or whenever you want to make something beautiful: CURVE.
*for good health, and/or for peace: BE.
*to work miracles, or for extraordinary accomplishment: DIVINE.
And about 90 more for other specific purposes! plus one master-key switchword to do anything with mastery: TOGETHER.

Using switchwords, you can easily enjoy increased creative power, effectiveness, accomplishment, fun, prosperity, aliveness, togetherness, life mastery, and life satisfaction.

I was fortunate to discover James Mangan's source book The Secret of Perfect Living (now long out of print) in 1975 and have used switchwords beneficially in everyday life ever since.

Your Decision Making Style and Work Stress

By Christy Matta, MA

Do you exhaustively search for information and systematically evaluate alternatives when faced with decisions?  Or are you more likely to avoid decisions, come to conclusions based on a gut feeling or look to others for advice?
People approach decisions differently, but each person's own individual style of making decisions tends to be the same over time.  Some people make choices and decisions with a logical and analytical thought process, while others are more intuitive and still others avoid making decisions at all.
According to a study in the International Journal of Stress Management, how you make decisions has an impact on your levels of stress (Allwood & Salo, 2012).  You may find that your decision making style varies, but most people make most decisions in a particular way.
Decision Making Styles that Contribute to Stress:
Avoidant Decision Making:  If you avoid making decisions, you also are likely to have trouble planning work activities efficiently and may get less work done, related to the decisions that need to be made.  Missed deadlines and negative consequences contributes to increased stress levels.
Dependent Decision Making:  If you tend to rely on advice from others before making any decisions you are more likely to also be dependent on other people's time schedules and planning.  The ambiguity that comes from having little control over the process is a well-documented stressor.
If you're prone to stress at work, understanding your own style of making decisions can help you pinpoint the origins of your stress.
You can find more strategies to improve how you feel in my new book, The Stress Response and by clicking here to sign up for more of my tips and podcasts using DBT strategies to improve how you feel.
Daydreaming at work photo available from Shutterstock.

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